How do you set a goal? Simple, you pick something you want to attain and start working towards it. If it were that easy everyone would have everything they’ve ever wanted, which isn’t the case. While having a goal is easy, executing and accomplishing it are far more challenging. But what separates those who set a goal and see it to completion from those who don’t? That’s what we are going to discuss in this post. We are going to break down Goal Setting and Execution. Most people lack the ability to set an appropriate goal. Additionally, knowing how to effectively execute and attain it. By the end of this, you will have a better understanding of how to set appropriate goals, execute them and attain them. By doing so, you will improve your ability to tackle all areas of your life.
Your goal needs to be able to transcend failure.
Think back in your life where you set a very specific goal and then accomplished it down the road. Take a moment. Now, reflect on what went into that. The path you had to take. The time it took to attain the necessary benchmarks along the way. The pieces in your life you had to negate in order to climb closer to the goal. Finally, what did it feel like when you accomplished that goal? When you had the trophy, diploma, title, etc. what was that feeling? Is it something you can still feel and resonate with? Is it something that has shaped you and molded you into the person you are today? When discussing goals, we want to draw on past experiences to help set the framework in our mind on what goes into that journey. We will discuss this further below but I wanted to get the ball rolling early to help prep your mind for what lies ahead.
Why do we need goals?
When we talk about goals, we have to start with: why do we have goals in the first place? Human beings need drives, aims, purpose, goals, etc. Our nervous system is wired to move towards something that improves our current situation, where the alternative is a favorable outcome. One of the systems involved in this is called the Dopaminergic System where the neurotransmitter, Dopamine, plays an integral part.
If we aren’t trying to improve our current status in some way, we will foster complacency and boredom. This will manifest differently in each of us but the innate drive is to move from where we are currently, to somewhere that is slightly better. So, the takeaway being, we need goals that improve our current situation and add value to us long term.
How do we set goals?
When setting a goal, you first need to identify how this goal adds value to you long term. How does it align with your true purpose in life. The deeper rooted your goals are the stronger you will be to weather the journey ahead. Your goal needs to be able to transcend failure. Meaning, regardless of the outcome, the quest towards that goal will force you develop and grow into a better version than your current self. You will leave the quest stronger, more experienced, and satisfied. A simple exercise you can do to tease this out is the following:
Ask yourself, “what is my goal?”
Then ask yourself, why?
Then ask yourself, why?
Repeat this 5 times. By the 5th response, you should have a legitimate reason as to why you want to chase that goal and whether or not it is rooted in something deep and meaningful that will transcend failure ,or something shallow and transient that will succumb to failure even in victory.
Goals that are not aligned with our true purpose will lack the adequate depth of alignment and commitment to the task needed to transcend failure. Failure will feel like failure and success will not feel fulfilling. (See our blog post on Motivation for more insight).
Have you done something similar before?
This point will draw connection to the one above. When setting a goal, we need to look back at prior experience in our lives where we set a goal, ideally of similar magnitude but not required, so we can create a strong understanding of the process and time required to attain it. Let’s use an example that most people who read this will be able to resonate with, the goal for this individual is to compete in the Crossfit Games one day. Now, let’s assume this person was a former national level wrestler. How long do you think it took for that person to reach an elite level in his sport? How many hours per week, and per day, did he have to devote over the lifespan of his career? What areas of his life did he have to re-prioritize in order for him to reach the top? By coming at his new goal from this angle, he can have an appreciation and understanding at the time and energy that will arguably need to be invested in his quest to reach the Crossfit Games. Will it take 20 years to attain it? Probably not. But the takeaway point is, for each of us who have goals that scare us a bit or seem quite ambitious we need to create a clear understanding around what will go into that goal via previous experiences where we had to devote and adjust pieces of our lives in order to reach the goal we set. By doing this, we will have a better appreciation for what it’s going to take to reach it and figure out if this is something we can devote the time and energy to. Lastly, if you don’t have a prior experience in your life that you can draw from, ask or research those who have already accomplished this goal. Find out all the pieces that went into their journey to attain what you are after. By having a greater understanding of the time and effort needed to potentially accomplish the goal, we will have greater respect for it and all that comes with it.
What is a realistic timeline for the goal?
Tying into the point above, have you set a realistic timeline for this goal? Our first thought is usually far below the actual amount of time it will take to attain it. This is where the value lies in looking at others who have attained the same goal, their journey, the pieces that went into it, the timeline of it, their prior training history to give context on how fast or slow it took them to reach the goal. Some people will have an ideal background to set themselves up for success in a sport fast tracking their timeline to the goal. Keep that in mind when evaluating others’ journey. By having a clearer understanding of the time it will require to reach the goal, we can set ourselves up for success by eliminating pipe dreams and getting on board with the long game. Any goal worth chasing will take a lot of time and energy. The sooner you can accept that the quicker you can start.
What if you fail?
What if you don’t achieve the goal? What will happen?
When setting a goal, it is prudent to spend time asking yourself, “What if I fail?” as there can be a strong possibility of that happening. How does that make you feel? Will it breed a sense of failure, and will that negatively impact your life? Is the goal worth taking on if failure will make your life worse? All of these questions circle back to the beginning when I discussed setting a proper goal. A goal that is deeply rooted in your true purpose and long term vision for yourself. Aligned so much so that the outcome will transcend failure. You have to choose a goal that will add value to your life regardless of the outcome. By taking on the burden and challenge of the goal you will be a better person for it.
Let’s recap. We need to set goals that improve our current situation, align with our true purpose in life, and allow us to transcend failure. We need to draw on our past experiences of accomplished goals, in addition to others who have gone before us and accomplished the goal we are pursuing. We will use these as points of reflection to assess if this is something we want to pursue knowing the work and time that will go into the journey. While ensuring this goal aligns with our true purpose in life. Is this goal going to move us to a more complete version of our current self. We then need to align all of the pieces in our life to move us closer to that goal each day. By creating clarity around the purpose of the goal, understanding the necessary pieces that will go into the process, and knowing it aligns with our true purpose we will attain the goal win or lose. The growth and experience we gain from taking on the challenge will transform us into a person that is far different from when we started. Someone who can handle setbacks, triumphs, adversity, and success.
Realize the journey will be tough. Nothing is given nor guaranteed. The lessons and growth you will gain from it will change your life forever. And for that, voluntarily take on the burden of the goal and charge forward towards it.
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